The ties that bind us

I’m OK with grumpy and tough, with funny and jolly.

I’m OK with hard-edged and soft, warm and cool, clever and obtuse, quick and slow, brassy and classy. You can laugh or cry – or not – that’s all fine with me.

But kindness is something I can’t budge on.  We’ve all seen that someone who is nice in all the right ways to all the right people, and then her true colors come out when she thinks no one’s looking and she has nothing to lose.

A person who is consistently kind is a person with humility.  In being kind, no matter what, she chooses not to create separation by tearing others down.  Her kindness demonstrates respect.  It shows that she knows that she shares her humanity with everyone she interacts with.  It even shows confidence: by extending a hand to another, in ways big and small, whenever she can, she shows that she knows that raising others up doesn’t cost anything, doesn’t use up any scarce resource.

Kindness is abundance manifest.

The screwdriver

Last week, while on vacation in the South (a few days before hurricane Irene upended our plans), I’d managed to pull down a venetian blind in the house we were renting and I needed a Phillips head screw to fix it.

I made my way to the hardware store, picked out five screws of varying sizes, and told the owner that I’d like to buy a cheap screwdriver to screw in one of these screws.

Rather than sell me a $10 screwdriver and charge me another buck for the screws, he lent me a screwdriver and asked me to bring it back.  I then reached into my pocket to pay for the screws and he said, “Don’t worry about it.”

That just about made my day.

And it got me thinking, again, about generosity, about how our analytic minds mess with us so much when we are steeped in so many intelligent discussions about philanthropy and the best ways to practice it.  It’s easy, when we are talking about giving to others, to critique generosity and soft-headed or impractical.  But I bet there’s not a person out there who, when someone is irrationally kind to them, stops to say, “well, that didn’t make an awful lot of sense, and that person shouldn’t have been so generous to me.”

It’s like the old adage about comedy and tragedy: comedy is seeing someone walking down the street fall into a manhole; tragedy is when I stub my toe.

When we talk about ourselves, and our own experiences, there’s no amount of generosity that feels like too much.  When we talk about others, everything is supposed to be bounded and thought out and make sense.

Generosity is a way of walking through the world and spreading joy.  Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s up to you to decide how much you want of that in your life.

Welcome to 2009, my namesake

From the BBC, and hat tip to Chris Blattman’s blog:

A Ugandan woman has given birth to a baby girl on board an international flight from Amsterdam to Boston after going into labour mid-flight.

The six-pound (2.7kg) baby named Sasha was delivered on New Year’s Eve with the help of two doctors on the eight-hour-long Northwest Airlines flight.

Sasha was deemed a Canadian citizen for customs’ purposes because she was born over Canada’s airspace.

Mother and baby were taken to a Boston hospital on landing and are doing well.

For whatever reason, this makes me feel connected and reminds me how small, international, and interconnected our world is.

I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, but I do like the idea of turning over a new leaf.

The problem with most resolutions is that they’re based on an accomplishment (“I will lose 10 pounds”).  Real change comes by changing your orientation and attitude.  The outcome is a result.

Some suggested resolutions that you might be able to keep:

“Be more interested.”

“Be more open.”

“Be more generous.”

“Smile more.”


What I like about these resolutions is that every day, every moment really,  you  have the chance to accomplish this goal.

Happy New Year, to little Sasha and to all of you.